Review – Wiebe Fire800 Hard Drive

On July 21, 2003, in Headphones, Review, by David Weeks

Wiebe Fire800 Hard Drive
Company: WiebeTech LLC

Price: $299.95 to $549.95 case only $169.95
http://www.wiebetech.com

The FireWire 800 floodgates have cracked open, with more manufacturers shipping FireWire 800 products. MyMac’s first FireWire 800 review was the LaCie BigDisk d2.

If you found the BigDisk too rich for your pocketbook, or simply more capacity than you need, WiebeTech’s Fire800 drive series may be right for you.

WiebeTech has been around for several years, and it’s acquired a reputation for innovative storage products. James Wiebe’s small firm does not make the actual hard drive mechanisms, but it packages them in well-engineered cases with great documentation. Many of Wiebe’s products are innovative and unique (the Drive Dock and Forensic Drive Dock) and can’t be found elsewhere. Fellow reviewer John Nemerovski has been raving about Wiebe products for a long time, and now I share his enthusiasm.

The Fire800 is a straightforward packaging of an ATA hard drive in a 9″ x 5.1″ x 1.4″ case: about the size of a trade paperback. Wiebe uses the latest Oxford 922 bridge chips to get the best FireWire throughput from the drive to your Mac. The back of the case has one FireWire 400 port, two (!) FireWire 800 ports, and a USB 2.0 port. Included are FireWire 400, FireWire 800, FireWire 800 to 400, and USB 2 cable, a power supply (the drive is not self-powered) and CD with outstandingly clear installation instructions.

The drive enclosure needs no fan, and the unit is virtually silent. The Fire800 ships with a small aluminum foot that slides onto the bottom side of the case, so the case sits solidly upright. The foot needs to be slid onto the case by the user, but it’s a friction-fit, and no tools are needed.

The review unit supplied to the Weeks division of MyMac labs was a 180-gig version. As with the LaCie BigDisk review, we used the XBench benchmarking application, with the Fire800 connected to my PowerMac Dual 1.42 machine with one gigabyte of RAM.

Here are the XBench results for the Fire800 using the traditional FireWire 400 interface:

Drive Type IC35L180 AVV207-1
Disk Test 86.25
Sequential 71.23
Uncached Write 71.73 31.29 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Write 73.69 29.98 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Uncached Read 60.57 9.54 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Read 82.42 35.56 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Random 109.29
Uncached Write 104.18 1.57 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Write 130.57 29.95 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Uncached Read 103.38 0.67 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Read 103.41 20.27 MB/sec [256K blocks]

Here are the XBench results using the speedier FireWire 800 interface:

Drive Type IC35L180 AVV207-1
Disk Test 107.10
Sequential 99.30
Uncached Write 113.23 49.40 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Write 114.73 46.68 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Uncached Read 67.45 10.62 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Read 126.47 54.56 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Random 116.22
Uncached Write 105.48 1.59 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Write 135.41 31.06 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Uncached Read 104.88 0.68 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Read 124.74 24.45 MB/sec [256K blocks]

These number are slightly better than those from the LaCie BigDisk

As expected, the FireWire 800 interface provides substantially faster
reads, writes, and access times, especially when doing sequential
reads/writes. Applications launched noticeably faster, and large files
saved noticeable faster. Wiebe’s pricing structure is unusual, allowing purchases of the Fire800 as a bare case, with no drive included. If you have a bare drive, perhaps pulled from an old Mac, you can install it in a Fire800 case, and have FireWire 800 capability for not much money. Also, for those power users who want to grab every bit of transfer rate, Wiebe allows a choice of drive manufacturer and cache size for some models of the Fire800!

If you are in the market for the 200/250-gigabyte drives, the 200/250 LaCie drives are priced competitively with the 200/250-gigabyte Wiebe Fire800 drives. But if you are looking for smaller drives, only Wiebe provides the smaller sizes, or bare cases.

Conclusion

WiebeTech is a great company shipping hard drives with state of the
art FireWire interface chips. If you want a mid-size drive with great
FireWire 800 specifications, the Wiebe Fire800 line is highly recommended.

MacMice Rating: 5 out of 5


David Weeks

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